The Complete Guide to Writing a Reflective Essay (2023)

This article written by nurses fromNursingAnswers.netshows you how to write a reflective essay and walks you through the process of writing this particular type of essay. If this is your first time receiving a reflective writing assignment, you may have a lot of questions, such as: "What is the purpose of this assignment?', 'How do I write a reflection essay?',or 'What am I supposed to learn from this?”The good news is that all of these questions are valid and you should ask them. Indeed, these are the kinds of questions that form the basis of reflective thinking; so if you're already asking yourself these kinds of questions, congratulations, you're well on your way to becoming a seasoned reflective thinker. Therefore, we will address each of these questions as we discuss the pros and cons of writing a reflective essay.

Reflective Test Comparison Table

What to do when writing a Reflective EssayEraNoto do when writing a reflective essay
Write in the first personWrite in the third person
Add a description of the experience or event from your unique point of viewGather data from different participants and create an objective account of the event from different subjective perspectives
Add some sizable analysis and reflections about the experience or eventOnly include a detailed description of the experience or event
You have a clear structure with: inintroduction,main body, EDiploma,or a variation of itWrite like a journal entry containing thoughts and emotions but no real structure
Use a formal tone throughout the piece.Use an informal conversational tone
Leverage established think tank frameworks such as B. Kolb (1984) or Gibb (1988)Don't Consider Reflective Bike Frames

What is a "reflective essay" for?

First, your first question might be to deduce the meaning of a reflective essay. The first thing you should know then is that the essence of a reflective essay, at its most basic level, is that it shouldreflectto an experience you had - hence the name. Of course, this reflection will vary according to the area of ​​study, but the principle is the same: you have a specific experience in the area or in life in general, and then you will write about it and think about analyses. More specifically, you will do this by first briefly describing what happened, from your unique point of view, before reflecting on it and trying to learn something from the experience, placing it in the context of perspectives or theories you have studied, or simply analyzing the experience. post-event experience a little deeper and trying to understand what happened.

If you know ahead of time that you'll be writing a reflective essay about a specific experience, it can be helpful to keep a journal as you go along so you're not relying solely on your memories (as memories can be malleable). , and are not as accurate as most people believe), and this journal can also include some reflections as you go along to help you immediately capture how you felt or saw events as they unfolded. In fact, on this subject, it can be said that there are two main types of reflection: (1) reflections during an event and (2) reflections after an event. As such, you may have to decide what kind of reflection to focus on - but you can only decide if you first know that you will be writing a reflective essay before an event occurs. The bottom line, though, is that writing a reflective essay allows you to learn about yourself and your field of study through hands-on experience.

The Complete Guide to Writing a Reflective Essay (1)

How to write a reflective essay

thinking about times

Since you are talking about your personal experience, unlike traditional essays, which almost always use the third person, a reflective essay usually uses the first person writing style (meaning you will often use the pronoun "I" and speak your personal Vision). To clarify, in case you are not fully familiar with third-person and first-person points of view, see an example third-person and first-person account below:

THIRD PERSON:"Observations and notes taken by research participants were taken via a secure, password-protected laptop."

FIRST PERSON:"I observed the research participants and took notes using a secure, password-protected laptop."

So this change in tense is the first clear distinction between a traditional academic essay and a reflective essay - so to write a reflective essay you need to be familiar with this style of writing in the first person. Fortunately, most people find this approach to writing in the first person much easier and more natural than the third person view, so this shouldn't be too much of an issue.

If you need help with reflective writing, check out thereflective writing serviceem

Think about the structure of your role

Next you need to think about the structure of your role. A good reflective essay should describe an event or experience, while also looking at what the experience meant and what you learned from it. By simply discussing and analyzing a past event, this makes the piece reflective by definition. From a structural point of view, however, there are different ways to do this. For example, you might have a section that first briefly describes the experience or event from your own perspective before moving on to an analysis section; or you can choose to include reflections and analysis as you work so that the reflective element is also included in the description part - it's up to you. In the end, there is no right or wrong answer, but what is important is that you include some key food for thought and some analysis of the experience; otherwise it is simply a descriptive rather than a reflective piece. Therefore, the basic format of a reflective essay will be a pattern:introduction,main body, EDiploma. However, as mentioned earlier, you can split the body into a separate descriptive section and analysis section, or you can merge the two.

  • Structure of essay 1: introduction, body, conclusion
  • Structure of essay 2: introduction, event description, analysis, conclusion

So if you choose Writing Framework 1, you'll need to put your description and reflective analysis together, and you can do this by creating a topic sentence (which describes that particular part of your experience), followed by analysis and support, details, and then , adding a mini conclusion at the end of the paragraph - and then you can follow that microstructure into each preceding paragraph in your main body. So, each paragraph in your body in Writing Structure 1 might look something like this:

  • Main clause:Describe that part of your experience and what happened
  • Analysis and support details:Reflect on that particular part of the experience (and try to explain it with different theories, perspectives or supporting evidence)
  • Mini conclusion at the end of the paragraph:Conclude the section by drawing some conclusions based on the considerations

However, for many people, Writing Framework 2 can be easier to work with because this approach allows you to simply write a full description of your experience and then look at everything more generally and pick out specific parts that you find interesting. particularly interesting. Ultimately which approach you choose is a very personal preference, and you shouldn't let any one approach devalue you unless your brief specifically calls for a certain structure from the start.

You can find hundreds ofExamples of reflection essaysem

Think about the tone of your reflective essay

The tone of your reflective essay is also important and should be formal in nature without being overly academic as you incorporate your personal thoughts and feelings that are subjective in nature. Thus, it may include academic elements, and the play should be referenced like any other academic work when including citations in the text of the play, but this should also be balanced with a more subjective and reflective approach, which should, of course, be transversal when you write in the first person. Just remember that it is ultimately an essay and treat it as such. In addition, it is also important to hit this tone early on, as first impressions count. However, this can be refined with each additional project; So don't worry if you can't solve this right from the start. So over time you should get an idea of ​​what is needed and refine that with more drafts.

What should you learn when writing a reflective essay?

As you go through the process of writing a reflective essay, we hope that you will come to a deeper understanding of yourself and your experiences, and that you will develop some insights into what you could do better next time to get different results. Then, as you reflect and analyze your experience, you can start to see the event through a different lens and this can shape your future experience and thinking. Therefore, such shifts in your thinking can be extremely important depending on your field of study.

For example, if you work in the social service field, you may have had an experience with a difficult client who physically abused you, and this may have left you confused and questioning your career choices if you don't fully understand why they became violent. . However, if you think about the event more closely, you might conclude that the client was not involved enough in their own care and was removed from the decision-making process, leaving them with a sense of powerlessness - which, for This, in turn, resulted in attacks against what they perceived as contributing to this powerlessness. Therefore, in this particular situation, you can conclude that if the client is able to do so, he should be more involved in the decision-making process related to his care in the future. Therefore, these types of reflective practices can lead to profound changes in how you conduct your work and how you think about certain situations.

Furthermore, as you become more proficient at reflective writing, you will also become more skilled at analyzing what you have read, observed or heard, and this skill will prove useful in other areas of your work as well as critical areas. part of most scientific texts. In addition, you will also become more skilled at making connections between academic texts and theories and your own experiences, which is useful for bridging the gap between theory and practice. So if you can make those connections, you'll probably be more excited to study those theories because you'll have more confidence in their real-world application. In addition, you will also become more proficient in subjective writing, which can also come in handy in academic writing from time to time. For example, at a very basic level, a reflective piece might look like this:

Title:"A reflective account of work in a psychiatric hospital"

Description:I volunteered at a psychiatric clinic for six weeks.

Consideration:I was surprised by the severity of some of the patients' conditions and the level of burnout I experienced from working with them.

Therefore, based on this particular consideration, it can be concluded that the author, reflecting on this experience, may no longer wish to pursue a career in mental health. Or they may decide that they are better suited for low-level counseling work (eg in a school) rather than working with people with chronic and severe mental illnesses.

Of course, reflection essays are likely to be much more in-depth than this, with your assignment possibly specifying a specific number of words for the piece, eg B. 1500 words or 3000 words. If that's the case, you'll have to delve considerably deeper, and this will likely lead to more revelations as your analysis of your experiences becomes more comprehensive and as you add theories and different perspectives to the equation.

Ultimately, however, the main purpose of a reflective essay is for the writer to reflect on their experiences and ultimately learn from them. What writing a reflective essay does, then, is help the author make sense of their experience through in-depth analysis so that some valuable lessons can be learned to move forward. To achieve this, a number of frameworks have been created over the years to guide the process of writing a reflective essay, and as such some of these should be considered before starting.

Reflective structures to draw

There are a number of theoretical frameworks you can use to create your reflective essay, and two of the best known are those by Kolb (1984) and Gibb (1988).

For more detailed guides on the different reflection models, see ourGuide to reflective models at

Kolb (1984) "Lernzyklus"

Kolb's (1984) reflective framework is known as the "learning cycle" and includes four phases: (1) concrete experience (a description of the event or experience), (2) reflective observation (a reflection of the experience, including what done and why), (3) abstract conceptualization (drawing conclusions from experience), and (4) active experimentation (trying out everything you learned from the process). So the main difference is that you must not only learn from a reflective experience, but also put what you learn into action. You should notice that this structure is very similartest structure 1, which we discussed above, with the addition of a more practical element to the final step. That way, you can experience what you've learned in practice and incorporate the result into your conclusion.

Gibbs (1988) „Reflexionszyklus“

In addition, Gibb (1988) also offers a 'reflection cycle', which is an extension of Kolb's (1984) ideas and provides two more steps to the four already proposed. This is perhaps the best known and most popular model used in reflective essays at the moment. This time, the six phases are: (1) Description, (2) Feelings, (3) Evaluation, (4) Analysis, (5) Conclusions, and (6) Action Plan. So the description is pretty self-explanatory and again includes a description of the events. Next, you need to document your feelings about the events, both during and after the event; Then there should be an evaluation of the experience, what the pros and cons were, including the reactions of those present and whether the situation has changed in any way. The analysis section can include literature relevant to the event and this is followed by a conclusion showing what was learned and what could have been done differently. The action plan outlines what you would do if the situation were to develop again and what preparations you could make in advance. As such, these frameworks provide a useful framework to work with, and can also be incorporated into the structure of your essay if you prefer, if you're better off working with a more formulaic approach. This is then more similartest structure 2, already described in detail, with the analysis section divided into sections on feelings, the evaluation of these feelings and the subsequent analysis of events, in addition to the action plan proposed by Kolb (1984). Furthermore, the idea with these two “cycles” is also to reflect more on the plan of action derived from the initial reflection, so that this process can be refined over time with new reflections and lead to some significant development of the individual (cf.illustration 1).

The Complete Guide to Writing a Reflective Essay (2)

Figure 1. Gibbs's “reflection cycle”.

Final thoughts…

The reflection essay has become a staple of assessment in educational institutions around the world and is particularly common in undergraduate and graduate university programs - so it's important to understand the ins and outs of such assessments so that you are better prepared when make one. such an order. If you can familiarize yourself with Kolb's (1984) and Gibb's (1988) reflection cycles, you will have a good idea of ​​what is expected of you when given one of these assignments, and you should be able to write a personal and formal tone in the first one. so you hit the mark with the style you aspire to. There are a number of do's and don'ts with this type of writing and you may want to refer to this article as a reminder when you start a task like this. However, the most important thing to remember when undertaking such an assignment (besides striving for a good grade!) is that it must be you.Learnsomething about you from the process and your field of study. In the end, your teacher wants you to reflect on your personal experiences rather than let them pass you by, linking theory with practice and gaining a deeper understanding of your experiences. If you can do this and your writing is solid, written in the right tempo and pitch, you will almost certainly get the note you want.


How do you write a reflective essay step by step? ›

How to write a reflection paper in 8 steps
  1. Understand and summarize the material. ...
  2. Analyze the material. ...
  3. Select a theme. ...
  4. Make connections between your opinions. ...
  5. Begin with an introduction. ...
  6. Write the body of the paper. ...
  7. End with a good conclusion. ...
  8. Proofread and edit.
Mar 21, 2023

How do you start writing a reflective essay? ›

Introduce your topic and the point you plan to make about your experience and learning. Develop your point through body paragraph(s), and conclude your paper by exploring the meaning you derive from your reflection. You may find the questions listed above can help you to develop an outline before you write your paper.

What are the keys to writing a reflective essay? ›

Academic reflective writing should:
  • develop a perspective or line of reasoning.
  • develop a link between your experience or practice and existing knowledge (theoretical or personal)
  • show understanding and appreciation of different perspectives to your own.
Nov 2, 2020

What are the 3 basic parts of reflection paper? ›

Just like every other academic paper, a reflection paper consists of three basic parts - an introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • Introduction.
  • Body Paragraphs.
  • Conclusion.
Feb 1, 2021

What is a good opening sentence for a reflective essay? ›

General Analysis • The most significant issue arising from this experience was … Alternatively this might be due to … I feel this situation arose because … Reflection on self • At the time I felt that …

How do you start the first paragraph of a reflective essay? ›

As is the case with all essays, your reflective essay must begin within an introduction that contains both a hook and a thesis statement. The point of having a 'hook' is to grab the attention of your audience or reader from the very beginning.

How should a reflective essay be structured? ›

A reflective essay should follow the classic essay format of introduction, body, and conclusion. Some other common formats include journaling or using a reflective model for only part of an essay or assignment. A journal is a collection of entries made on a regular basis (e.g. daily or weekly).

What not to do when writing a reflective essay? ›

A common mistake people make when writing reflectively is to focus too much on describing their experience.

What is reflective writing format? ›

What is reflective writing? Writing reflectively involves critically analysing an experience, recording how it has impacted you and what you plan to do with your new knowledge. It can help you to reflect on a deeper level as the act of getting something down on paper often helps people to think an experience through.

What are the 5 R's of reflective writing? ›

The 5R framework for reflection will guide you through Reporting, Responding, Relating, Reasoning, and Reconstructing to make sense of a learning experience.

What are the four stages of reflective writing? ›

Gibbs' Reflective Cycle
  • Description of the experience.
  • Feelings and thoughts about the experience.
  • Evaluation of the experience, both good and bad.
  • Analysis to make sense of the situation.
  • Conclusion about what you learned and what you could have done differently.
Nov 11, 2020

What does a reflective essay look like? ›

A reflective essay is an essay in which the writer examines his or her experiences in life. The writer then writes about those experiences, exploring how he or she has changed, developed or grown from those experiences. The format of a reflective essay may change slightly depending on who the audience is.

What is the 3 R's of reflection? ›

Resonance, Reflection, and Resilience (The 3 Rs)

What are 3 materials that are highly reflective? ›

Metallic silver (Ag), gold (Au) and aluminum (Al) are the most widely studied as highly reflective materials. Other materials such as different nanocrystalline metal oxides -TiO2, ZnO, MgO and Al2O3 are widely used as IR reflectors.

How do you introduce yourself in a reflective essay? ›

Your introduction should specify what you're reflecting upon. Make sure that your thesis informs your reader about your general position, or opinion, toward your subject. State what you are analyzing: a passage, a lecture, an academic article, an experience, etc...) Briefly summarize the work.

What do you write first in a reflection paper? ›

To begin your reflection paper, you must first decide on the topic you want to write about. Once you have done this, write a short summary about what you have learned from your experience with the topic.

Are you allowed to say I in a reflective essay? ›

In reflective writing, the use of 'I' is not only acceptable, but expected. Reflective writing, however, needs to be more than a description of your observations or thoughts, or a simple summary of what happened in a situation.

Can you speak in first person in a reflective essay? ›

As a large proportion of your reflective account is based on your own experience, it is normally appropriate to use the first person ('I'). However, most assignments containing reflective writing will also include academic writing.

How long should reflective writing be? ›

Length and Format. There is no minimum or maximum length for the reflective essay, but as a general guideline, it should be roughly 500-1200 words (~2-3 standard, double-spaced pages). Anything less than 500 words and you are unlikely to address the key ideas in enough depth to engage your readers.

What are the 4 C's of critical reflection? ›


What should a reflection essay contain? ›

A reflective paper describes and explains in an introspective, first person narrative, your reactions and feelings about either a specific element of the class [e.g., a required reading; a film shown in class] or more generally how you experienced learning throughout the course.

What is the 321 strategy of reflection? ›

About This Teaching Strategy

A 3-2-1 prompt helps students structure their responses to a text, film, or lesson by asking them to describe three takeaways, two questions, and one thing they enjoyed. It provides an easy way for teachers to check for understanding and to gauge students' interest in a topic.

What are the names of the three types of reflection? ›

Reflection is divided into three types: diffuse, specular, and glossy.

What are the 2 basic laws of reflection? ›

Laws of reflection: The first law of reflection states that the incident ray, the reflected ray, and the normal to the surface of the mirror, all lie in the same plane. The second law of reflection states that the angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence.

What are the four most common lines of reflection? ›

The most common lines of reflection are the x-axis, the y-axis, or the lines y = x or y = −x. Notice that the notation tells you exactly how each (x,y) point changes as a result of the transformation. Write the notation that represents the reflection of the preimage to the image in the diagram below.

What are the five principles of reflective practice? ›

Through this examination, we've come to identify five principles of practice: Communities of practice, Contextualized practice, Critical reflection, Cultivating strengths, and Cycles of inquiry.

What is the most reflective element? ›

Silver is the most reflective across the visible spectrum, reflecting 95 percent of light.

What is the most reflective object? ›

The best surfaces for reflecting light are very smooth, such as a glass mirror or polished metal, although almost all surfaces will reflect light to some degree. Reflection of Light When light waves are incident on a smooth, flat surface, they reflect away from the surface at the same angle as they arrive.

What's the most reflective thing? ›

Dielectric mirrors are glass or other substrates on which one or more layers of dielectric material are deposited, to form an optical coating. A very complex dielectric mirror can reflect up to 99.999% of the light incident upon it, for a narrow range of wavelengths and angles.

What is reflective writing example? ›

Some examples of reflective writing assignments include:

Critiquing a teaching or learning activity (self-review or peer review activities). Critiquing your experiences on a placement or internship. Describing a critical experience in your life that has shaped your view of the world.

What is a reflective essay give an example? ›

A reflective essay means you'll reflect on how you've changed or how an event changed you. For example, if you were walking to class yesterday and were almost hit by a car as you crossed the street, you might reflect on how the near-death experience changed you forever.

What are the rules of reflective writing? ›

Reflective writing should include essential details, written directly and concisely. Clear examples are very useful. Deeper level reflective writing may also connect with the literature you have been reading, to support or even contradict what you have experienced.

What should you avoid in reflective writing? ›

  • Mistake #1: Thinking only about actions.
  • Mistake #2: Reflecting in isolation.
  • Mistake #3: Using only analytical skills.
  • Mistake #4: Relying only on your own experience and preference.

What is the format of reflection paper? ›

A reflective paper describes and explains in an introspective, first person narrative, your reactions and feelings about either a specific element of the class [e.g., a required reading; a film shown in class] or more generally how you experienced learning throughout the course.

What are 5 examples of reflection? ›

The numerous Reflections of light examples that we find around us are below.
  • Mirror images.
  • The image formed by Reflection through the spherical mirror.
  • Reflection through headlights.
  • Reflection through side mirror of vehicles.
  • Reflection of the image in water bodies.
  • Reflection through shoe polished surface.

Do I need a conclusion in a reflective essay? ›

You want an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion. Academic reflection will require you to both describe the context, analyse it, and make conclusions.

How do you start a conclusion for a reflective essay? ›

Think of your thesis statement and use that purpose to guide your reflection. You might begin your conclusion with something such as “When I look back on that day, I consider how lucky I am to have survived.” You will then continue by restating some of the main points of your story that prove your thesis.

Can I use I in a reflective essay? ›

In reflective writing, the use of 'I' is not only acceptable, but expected. Reflective writing, however, needs to be more than a description of your observations or thoughts, or a simple summary of what happened in a situation.


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